SHILLONG, Aug 30 (IANS): Irom Sharmila, fasting for the last 11 years for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), must "reach out to people across the country" like anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare to make her cause known, says former union home secretary G.K. Pillai.
AFSPA enables security forces to shoot at sight and arrest anybody without a warrant if an area is declared disturbed. Sharmila is currently in an isolated room of Manipur's Jawarharlal Nehru Hospital.
"It is a question of how you reach out to people. AFSPA is applicable only in Jammu and Kashmir and in the northeastern states. Corruption is pricking people everywhere and that's why Anna Hazare had a high moral ground," Pillai told IANS Monday.
"She (Sharmila) has to reach out to the people across the country. She has to say why she is on fast," said Pillai.
"AFSPA should be repealed and the government should have a humane law," Pillai added.
Dubbed the 'Iron Lady of Manipur', Sharmila began her fast Nov 2, 2000, after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop near her home. Now around 40, Sharmila was arrested shortly after beginning her protest -- on charges of attempted suicide. She was sent to a prison hospital in Imphal where began a daily routine of being force-fed via a nasal drip.
Sharmila is frequently set free by local courts but once outside, she resumes her hunger strike and is rearrested.
AFSPA was passed in 1990 to grant special powers and immunity from prosecution to security forces to deal with raging insurgencies in northeastern states and in Jammu and Kashmir.
The act is a target for local human rights groups and international campaigners such as Amnesty International, which say the law has been an excuse for extrajudicial killings.
Amnesty has campaigned vociferously against the legislation, which it sees as a stain on India's democratic credentials and a violation of international human rights laws.